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Adding Another Hat to the Collection

I’ve long held that the more things you can capably do in the world of music the better your chances of survival. A lot of the musical survivors I’ve known over the years years sustained their careers by wearing multiple hats.

Here are some of the hats I’ve worn: drummer, keyboardist, music copyist, arranger, jingle producer, composer, songwriter, lyricist, record producer, orchestrator, and even script writer.

As technology rocked the music world, I picked up the skills of programming tracks and rudimentary engineering, so that I could produce cost-effective demos. I finally succumbed to computer software for composing, becoming my own copyist and editor. I added these hats to my list in order to survive.

My latest hat is that of orchestral programmer.

In order to land a particular job, I recently purchased several high end orchestral sample libraries. With them, I completed four orchestral pieces for a large church. (More to come on this project in the spring.) The software learning curve was fairly steep. And though I’ve much left to learn, by the time I finished the fourth piece, I felt like I had completed a college level course in sample manipulation.

You see, even though I was able to import all the MIDI notes from my compositional software (Sibelius) into my DAW (Digital Performer), I still had to manipulate, nudge, tweak and cajole every sampled note of every sampled instrument in order to make them sound human and believable. And all that tweaking takes time. What would have taken a few hours to record in a studio with a full orchestra took me 10 days to program.

(I’m sure I’ll get faster with practice.)

But the point is, I hired one person (me) to do what would ordinarily require the skills of anywhere from 40 to 60 people.

This technology has been around for some time. Up till now, I have avoided it, largely because I could. My primary employers (print music publishers) still tend to record everything with live musicians. I say “tend to” because that is changing. And I figured I better get comfortable wearing this new hat if I want to stretch my career out for a few more years.

The sad thing is – I didn’t get to hear my music played by a large studio orchestra, a truly amazing experience. Worse, this new technology will likely separate me further from live musicians in the future. On the other hand, it will enable me to do my own orchestral tracks, free from the concerns about the ever-shrinking production budgets of most clients.

So, I’ve got this new hat. It fits okay, but it’s not yet comfy.


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